Summer of Shelf Discovery: Week 6, Chapter 6: “Girls Gone Wild”


My summer read-along is the Summer of Shelf Discovery, where we’re reading a chapter of Lizzie Skurnick’s book memoir, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading and some of the book selections she discusses in that chapter. This is week 6 (we’re more than halfway through!), and chapter 6 is “Girls Gone Wild: Runaways, Left Behinds, and Ladies Living off the Fat of the Land.”

The books she writes about are:

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O’Dell
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
The Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile by Esther Hautzig
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

As in the other chapters of Skurnick’s book, she asks what the draw is to this subset of children’s/young adult books:

From whence comes our obsession with churning, straining, boring, sewing, scraping, stirring, carding, pulling, picking, boiling and scrubbing? (219)

I think the answer is similar to that from chapter 5, which was Very Special Topics. I wanted to know what it would be like to live off the land, to be in that situation in the book. Without, you know, actually having to live by myself on an island for 18 years, work really hard, be exiled to Siberia, etc.

For this chapter, I read Island of the Blue Dolphins, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Two very different books but both about girls who are abandoned and have to learn to cope, though Kit gets a lot more help than Karana did.

Two of the books from this chapter were particular favorites of mine when I was young: Witch of Blackbird Pond and Understood Betsy. Both were about girls who were transplanted, and I suspect my oft-moving young self related to this.

For modern equivalents, I remember the female half of Cold Mountain was like this, how the Penelope character had to learn to survive on her own.

Which of these books did you read/have you read? What are some modern-day equivalents of the fish-out-of-water story?

Previous Posts on the read along:

Chapter 5

Chapter 4

Chapter 3
Chapter 2
Chapter 1
How To Read Along

Remember: post comments and links if you wrote about these books on your site. At the end of the summer, I’ll do a drawing, and Skurnick is donating a prize pack of some sort.

9 Responses to “Summer of Shelf Discovery: Week 6, Chapter 6: “Girls Gone Wild””

  1. Amy Says:

    I read and loved Understood Betsy (on my blog today) and am just finishing Witch of Blackbird Pond, which so far is holding up really well. I was–still am–fascinated with learning about things like this through books. I still have a weird interest in books about extreme things, like climbing Mt. Everest or the polar expeditions of long ago, things I’ll never do but love to read about other people doing.

  2. Kate Says:

    So I get why she chose Little House in the Big Woods, but I would argue that The Long Winter fits better in this chapter (a candle out of a button? TWISTING HAY into LOGS?). TLW is perhaps my favorite of all the Little House books, probably because of this idea of living off the land when the land forsakes you.

    As for modern books, Once Upon A River might fit in this chapter. Also, the end of the first Jacky Faber (Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, a new YA series I enjoy in the summer time) book, where she’s stuck on the island, might also fit. Those are more adventure on the high seas kind of books, though.

  3. Patricia Says:

    I just didn’t read a selection this week … we Stampeded ( a lot), flew to Yellowknife for an air show, and had more compelling books piling up. Week 7 here I come.

  4. girldetective Says:

    Pat, what were more compelling books?

  5. shannon Says:

    this week, i read Witch of Blackbird Pond (disliked) and Homecoming (liked) - both of which were first time reads for me.
    kit was such a whiny complainer who obviously didn’t think through her decision to leave the wealth and ease of barbados for the unknown puritanism of the new world. i had little sympathy for her. head-strong and impulsive, she invited every danger that came her way…
    but i liked dicey and her take on people (like the price to stay with their cousin was too high: being grateful all the time). i loved the sheer survival aspects of the story - where to sleep, what to eat, how to get money. the book reminded me of The Girl who Owned a City (my fav book when i was 12). i was pretty excited to see this was the first in the series of seven (!) books about the tillermans - now i’ve a got another half-dozen good books to bring home from the library for my 13 yo :)

  6. girldetective Says:

    In Witch of BP, I liked how Kit got a comeuppance, as she was headstrong and imperfect, and I liked seeing her through the exasperated eyes of her new family. She was very much still a spoiled child when she arrived, but not at the end.

  7. Patricia Says:

    I’m smack in the middle of Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Each and every spare minute was devoted to reading that. And the spare minutes were few wnad far between.

  8. girldetective Says:

    I think this chapter didn’t generate as much love as some others. And Mantel’s doorstop is a good reason.

  9. Kate Says:

    I wish I had a picture, but Mantel’s latest on the top of my stack (of four hefty ones, and one shorter one I bought in the PRESENCE of Girl Detective;) for our upcoming vacation. I cannot wait.

    Also, Homecoming was one of my favorite books (as in, I re-read it often, and that original copy sits on my boy’s shelf now) as a kid. I enjoyed the series as well, though I didn’t own them all.